“Anatomy of An Election” Book Launch

Details:

Join Irwin Law in celebrating the release of our new title, Anatomy of an Election: Canada’s Federal General Election of 2019 Through the Lens of Political Law by Gregory Tardi! We’ll be hosting our first ever virtual event on our new website, and we want you to join in on the fun!
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Have you been interested in learning more about our country’s democracy? Are you curious about the ins and outs of the Canadian electoral process? What about the details of political and legal events that define a party’s campaign? Now is your chance to get some answers from Anatomy author, Gregory Tardi!

Irwin Law invites you to participate in the Anatomy of an Election Q&A happening LIVE on Twitter on Thursday, June 11 at 1 pm (EST)! Enter your questions here for a chance to WIN a FREE copy of Anatomy of an Election! The winner will be announced on Twitter following the book launch.

We encourage everyone to visit our website on the day of the launch, and to join our live discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #anatomyofanelection! We look forward to seeing you there!

*The book launch web page will go live on Thursday, June 11.*

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“Law Enforcement Files Discredit Brian Kemp’s Accusation That Democrats Tried to Hack the Georgia Election; Kemp’s explosive allegation, just days before the closely contested 2018 election, drew wide attention. But newly released documents show that there was no such hack.”

Pro-Publica and the AJC report:

It was a stunning accusation: Two days before the 2018 election for Georgia governor, Republican Brian Kemp used his power as secretary of state to open an investigation into what he called a “failed hacking attempt” of voter registration systems involving the Democratic Party.

But newly released case files from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation reveal that there was no such hacking attempt.

The evidence from the closed investigation indicates that Kemp’s office mistook planned security tests and a warning about potential election security holes for malicious hacking.

Kemp then wrongly accused his political opponents just before Election Day — a high-profile salvo that drew national media attention in one of the most closely watched races of 2018.

“The investigation by the GBI revealed no evidence of damage to (the secretary of state’s office’s) network or computers, and no evidence of theft, damage, or loss of data,” according to a March 2 memo from a senior assistant attorney general recommending that the case be closed.

Flashback to my Slate piece the Saturday before that election:

More on this in Election Meltdown.

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Trump’s Rants Against Vote By Mail is Endangering His Voters’ Health and Voting Rights: New Evidence from Pennsylvania

Philly Inquirer:

As of Thursday morning, about 1.3 million registered Democrats had requested and been approved for mail ballots for the June 2 primary election, compared with about 524,000 Republicans. Republicans made just 29% of the requests, even though they represent 38% of registered voters in the state and 45% of those registered with either major party.

“I must tell you that locally, in my county, we’re not advocating and we’re not pushing the mailin voting,” said Lee Snover, chairwoman of the Northampton County GOP. “We’re concerned about fraud. We’re not happy with the process. Trump has sent the message out there that he’s concerned about it as well….

Northampton County, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia, was one of three in the state that voted twice for Barack Obama before backing Trump.

“Our county kind of is a Trump county. We’re kind of listening to Trump on this,” Snover said. “He’s spoken about it. He’s tweeted about it. He doesn’t want us to do it.”

Snover said “more than one person” has told her that “Trump doesn’t want us mailing in, [so] I’m not mailing it in.”

The data and anecdotal reports like Snover’s show that Trump’s rhetorical war against voting by mail is turning into a high-stakes bet that enough of his supporters will show up at the polls during a pandemic to propel the president in a key battleground state he won by less than 1 percentage point in 2016.

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“Cutting through the hysteria: The facts about Nevada’s mostly mail election”

Daniel Stewart oped in the Nevada Independent:

I am, among other things, an election-law attorney who has mostly represented Republicans. And I understand the instinct behind the initial response. Pictures of unused ballots piling up in trash cans trigger kneejerk nausea. Voting is sacred; ballots are too. But there is more to the story, and even a superficial dive into relevant law and actual practice should comfort, not concern. Our elections are in good hands, run by good people, who know what they are doing.

The debate over the vote-by-mail system is (or should be) fundamentally a question of law. Legal disputes don’t rely on popular opinion to sift right from wrong, and sometimes the answers are inescapable. 

Nevada law says quite a bit about conducting elections even in times like this. Our election officials, led by Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, are following the rules, straight down the middle. They have implemented a system worthy of applause not criticism, one that uses legal tools already available, and does not stray outside existing legal boundaries even a little. Every Nevada voter now has an equal opportunity to vote without jeopardizing anyone’s health or safety. How is this cause for distress?

The issue sparking the most consternation—mailing ballots to inactive voters—does not lack for statutory guidance. On the contrary, the rules are plain and unambiguous. …

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“Mailing of ballots to all voters in Las Vegas area puts sharp focus on election safeguards”

Washington Post:

The decision by Nevada’s most populous county to mail ballots to all registered voters ahead of the state’s June 9 primary has intensified a partisan debate about the security of all-mail voting, putting sharp focus on how states are handling a process President Trump claims without evidence leads to widespread election fraud.

Officials in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, began sending ballots to 1.1 million active voters this month as part of Nevada’s first all-mail election, prompted by the coronavirus epidemic. Roughly 200,000 more inactive voters — those who did not vote in two consecutive general elections — also received ballots in the mail after Democrats sued to make voting in the primary more accessible.

In recent days, Republicans have seized on a few accounts of what appeared to be unattended or discarded ballots in residential areas of Las Vegas as proof that mailing ballots to all voters opens the door to massive election fraud that will benefit Democrats.

The GOP intensified that line of attack last weekend when the Republican National Committee sued to block California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) from mailing ballots to the state’s 20.2 million registered voters for the general election, the party’s most aggressive attempt so far to prevent a state from changing its voting practices in response to covid-19.

“It is an absolute brazen power grab,” RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said this week on Fox News, referring to Newsom’s order. “What he’s talking about is just sending ballots directly to registered voters. … There will be ballots littering the streets, and if you don’t believe me, look what is happening in Nevada.”…

Under Cegavske’s plan, only active registered voters in Nevada would have received ballots in the mail, and each county would have been required to open only one in-personpolling place to assist voters and provide same-day registration.

Democrats warned that could lead to massive lines in Clark County, home to the majority of Nevada’s population, and sued Cegavske and county officials seeking more in-person voting locations and other changes.

“Expanding voting by mail is necessary to protect the right to vote during the coronavirus pandemic, but it must be paired with meaningful opportunities to vote safely in person and include various safeguards to prevent disenfranchisement of voters,” the lawsuit stated.

In response, Clark County Registrar of Voters Joseph P. Gloria announced several changes to his election plan. Inactive as well as active voters would receive ballots in the mail, which Democrats argued was required under state law.

A spokesman for the county said signature matching will be used to verify mail ballots before they are counted. In cases in which a signature does not match or there is no signature, officials will attempt to contact voters to confirm they completed the ballot by providing identifying information and signing an oath.

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“Despite Trump’s attacks, Kansas voters request 2020 mail ballots at historic rate”

KC Star:

Johnson County election workers spent Memorial Day weekend sending out roughly 380,000 applications for mail ballots — one to every registered voter in the state’s most populous county.

Kansas has allowed voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason since 1996. But the unprecedented move by county officials reflects COVID-19’s impact on the mechanics and politics of voting in 2020. Their hope is to prevent long lines in August and November, as voters elect a new U.S. senator and other office holders amid the ongoing the pandemic….

But it’s actually the state’s smaller GOP-leaning counties where voters are requesting them at the highest rate. As of this week, 13 rural counties had processed mail ballot applications for 10 percent or more of their registered voters.

Trego County, a western Kansas county of less than 3,000 people, has had 24.2 percent of its registered voters request mail ballots.

Republic and Sheridan, two other small rural counties, were close behind with 22.9 percent and 19.1 percent respectively, according to Schwab’s office. All three counties are part of the heavily Republican 1st Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican running for U.S. Senate.

Marshall embodies the party’s conflicting sentiments on mail voting. During a virtual town hall on FOX 4 KC last week, he praised Kansas’ election system — which uses mail ballots widely — while also objecting to efforts to expand mail voting nationally.

Asked to clarify the congressman’s comments, Marshall’s spokesman Eric Pahls said in a statement that the congressman “supports local decision-making, and knows a national one-size-fits-all mail approach would be a disaster.”

Pahls added that Marshall “believes in the need for greater scrutiny into the entire mail-in process to ensure fraud and illegal harvesting are rooted out.”

Marshall’s top rival for the GOP nomination for Senate, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has also criticized efforts to expand mail voting nationally even though every election he oversaw during his two terms as the top election official featured the practice.

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“Democratic Legitimacy under Conditions of Severely Depressed Voter Turnout”

Jim Gardner has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, U Chicago L Rev Online). Here is the abstract:

Due to the present pandemic, it seems increasingly likely that the 2020 general election in November will be held under conditions of unprecedented downward pressure on voter turnout. The possibility of severely depressed turnout for a highly consequential presidential election raises troubling questions of democratic legitimacy. Although voter turnout in the United States has historically been poor, low turnout is not usually thought to threaten the legitimacy of electoral processes when it results from voluntary abstention and is distributed unsystematically. Conversely, electoral legitimacy is often considered at risk when nonvoting is involuntary, especially when obstacles to voting fall systematically on specific populations. If turnout in November is unusually low but largely voluntary and unsystematic, then the risks to legitimacy should be low. If, however, nonvoting is both widespread and involuntary, and especially if obstacles to voting seem systematically directed at specific groups, conditions will be in place for a significant escalation of the threat. In particular, concerns of electoral legitimacy, which place in doubt only the authority of specific election winners to occupy the offices to which they have purportedly been elected, may ratchet up to much more profound concerns about regime legitimacy. Such concerns cast doubt on the continuing validity of popular consent to the entirety of the existing governmental regime.

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“Missouri governor on Tuesday’s elections: if you don’t feel safe, ‘don’t go out and vote’” (But The State Does Not Offer No-Excuse Vote by Mail)

KC Star:

Ahead of Tuesday’s local elections, Gov. Mike Parson said Missourians should prioritize their safety over voting.

“I hope people feel safe to go out and vote, but if they don’t, you know, the No. 1 thing — their safety should be No. 1,” Parson said during Thursday’s press briefing. “If they don’t, then don’t go out and vote.”

Most Missouri voters will be deciding on city council and school board races, or local ballot measures Tuesday. Parson signed an executive order March 18 to move elections planned for April 7 to June 2 because of concern caused by the rising number of Missourians infected with the novel coronavirus.

Unlike several states, Missouri does not offer “no-excuse” absentee voting, and most voters are only eligible to cast their ballot in-person.

bill that would allow for anyone to vote by mail, after obtaining a notary’s signature, sits on Parson’s desk for consideration, and would only apply to the August primary and November presidential elections. He has not indicated whether he will sign it.

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“Accommodating a Massive Surge in Absentee Voting For the Presidential Election”

This piece of mine is coming out soon in the University of Chicago Law Review Online. Here’s the abstract:

This fall, most states are likely to see a massive surge in absentee voting. The significantly greater burdens absentee ballots impose on election administration, compared to in-person voting, are not widely appreciated. Unless certain key dates in the election calendar are changed to take this unprecedented surge into account, the structural integrity and legitimacy of the election could be called into doubt.

The date changes suggested here have three specific objectives. First, to enable as many absentee ballots as possible to be counted on (rather than after) Election Night. If tens of thousands of votes cannot be counted until many days after the election, with the front-runner on Election Night turning out to lose, this increases the risk of the loser and his supporters declaring the process “rigged.” Minimizing that risk must be a key focal point of election-administration this fall. Second, to give election officials enough time to complete the complicated task of processing all these ballots fairly and properly. Third, to give voters an adequate opportunity to vote in the novel circumstances this fall might pose.

The changes identified in this essay involve state law and the federal law that governs the final stage of the presidential election, The Electoral Count Act. The date the electoral college votes should be pushed back to accommodate the longer time states are likely to need to process properly levels of absentee voting that might be an order of magnitude greater than in normal times.

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“Arrested, Jailed and Charged With a Felony. For Voting.”

NYT:

Keith Sellars and his daughters were driving home from dinner at a Mexican restaurant last December when he was pulled over for running a red light. The officer ran a background check and came back with bad news for Mr. Sellars. There was a warrant out for his arrest.

As his girls cried in the back seat, Mr. Sellars was handcuffed and taken to jail.

His crime: Illegal voting.

“I didn’t know,” said Mr. Sellars, who spent the night in jail before his family paid his $2,500 bond. “I thought I was practicing my right.”

Mr. Sellars, 44, is one of a dozen people in Alamance County in North Carolina who have been charged with voting illegally in the 2016 presidential election. All were on probation or parole for felony convictions, which in North Carolina and many other states disqualifies a person from voting. If convicted, they face up to two years in prison.

While election experts and public officials across the country say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, local prosecutors and state officials in North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Idaho and other states have sought to send a tough message by filing criminal charges against the tiny fraction of people who are caught voting illegally.

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“Montana Supreme Court: Ballots Must Be Received By Election Day”

Montana Public Radio:

The Montana Supreme Court today overruled a lower court order and restored the state’s Jun. 2 mail-in ballot receipt deadline for the upcoming primary.

The high court’s order means voters must get their mail-in ballots to their local election office or other drop off locations by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Attorney General Tim Fox asked the state supreme court to address Montana’s ballot receipt deadline the morning of May 27 on behalf of Secretary of State Corey Stapleton.

In its five-two decision on May 27, the state Supreme Court’s majority says it retained the ballot receipt deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption of election administration. Instructions included with primary ballots tell voters to return their envelopes by that deadline.

Decision.

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“League of Women Voters of Alabama Sues Election Officials to Protect Voting Rights During COVID-19 Crisis”

Release:

Today the League of Women Voters of Alabama (LWVAL) filed a lawsuit in State Court against Secretary of State John Merrill, Governor Kay Ivey, and Montgomery County election officials to protect the rights of Alabama voters to safely cast their ballots during the pandemic. The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization that registers and educates voters and works to improve public policy.

The suit, filed in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Alabama, seeks to prevent Alabama voters from being forced to choose between exercising their right to vote and protecting themselves and their families from the deadly coronavirus. It does not ask the state court to make permanent changes in Alabama’s election laws.  It asks only that State election officials be ordered to exercise their emergency powers to authorize local election officials to relax restrictions on both absentee ballots and in-person voting during the pandemic. The LWVAL is joined by individual Alabama voters — including election workers — in its lawsuit….

Read the full complaint here

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DOJ Settles Voting Rights Act Section 2 Lawsuit with South Dakota School District Allegedly Violating Native American Rights; A Rare Pro-Voter Action by Trump DOJ

Tierney Sneed:

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“Trump Prepares Order to Limit Social Media Companies’ Protections; The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and signals the latest salvo by President Trump to crack down on online platforms.”

NYT:

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order intended to curtail the legal protections that shield social media companies from liability for what gets posted on their platforms, two senior administration officials said early Thursday.

Such an order, which officials said was still being drafted and was subject to change, would make it easier for federal regulators to argue that companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter are suppressing free speech when they move to suspend users or delete posts, among other examples.

The move is almost certain to face a court challenge and is the latest salvo by President Trump in his repeated threats to crack down on online platforms. Twitter this week attached fact-checking notices to two of the president’s tweets after he made false claims about voter fraud, and Mr. Trump and his supporters have long accused social media companies of silencing conservative voices.

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“IRS Rule Change Could Aid Foreign Election Meddling, Critics Say”

Bloomberg:

Transparency advocates are looking for a legislative fix after the IRS approved a rule they say opens the door to allow politically active nonprofits to take foreign money to influence U.S. elections, without being detected.

“At a time when over $10 billion total is expected to be spent during this election season, the requirement that organizations (like the National Rifle Association) report their donors to the IRS was key to ensuring that the foreign-money ban on elections was enforced,” Campaign Legal Center President Trevor Potter said in a statement.

“Congress must now step up and strengthen our transparency rules to ensure foreigners aren’t using opaque tax-exempt organizations to meddle in our elections,” Meredith McGehee, executive director of the nonprofit Issue One, said in a statement.

Others hailed the move, which was announced Tuesday, saying it would prevent accidental disclosure of information always meant to be confidential.

“Everyone has the right to support social causes without being harassed,” David Keating, president of the nonprofit Institute for Free Speech, said in a statement.

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“Local Political Parties as Networks: A Guide to Self-Assessment”

New white paper from SSN working group:

The 2020 election season offers extraordinary opportunities for local parties to welcome new members, grow their ranks, and serve as networks of civic connection. This self-assessment document provides a set of diagnostic questions to help parties to play those important roles. COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges: contagious disease, economic crisis, and restrictions on face-to-face contact. With these realities in mind, the final section specifically addresses party-building during a time of pandemic crisis and social distancing, presenting strategies that local groups have innovated to carry forward the community-based work that is more urgent now than ever. . . .

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“Wisconsin election officials agree to mail absentee ballot request forms to most voters”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Wisconsin election officials agreed Wednesday to send absentee ballot applications to most voters this fall, but the plan could face obstacles next month if Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on the wording of the mailing.

The members of the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted 6-0 to advance the plan a week after they failed to reach consensus on who should receive ballot applications.

Under the commission’s plan, the state will not send actual absentee ballots, but rather the forms voters can use to request them. If voters filled out those forms and provided a copy of a photo ID, they would receive an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 presidential election.  

The mailing would also include information about how to request an absentee ballot using the state’s online portal, myvote.wi.gov.

Mail voting surged to nearly 1 million in the April election for state Supreme Court as people tried to stay at home as much as possible during the coronavirus outbreak. Mail voting this fall is expected to surpass the record set in April. 

The state has 3.4 million registered voters. About 528,000 of them have already requested absentee ballots and the state believes about 158,000 of them have moved since they last voted. 

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“Will mail-in voting turn Election Day into Election Week?”

AP:

While each state runs its own process, those mail ballots can take longer to count. In some states, the ballots can be accepted several days after Election Day, as long as they are postmarked before polls closed. And while some states count the ballots as they come in, others — notably the critical battlegrounds of Michigan and Pennsylvania — have laws that forbid processing mail ballots until Election Day, guaranteeing the count will extend well past that night.

That doesn’t mean The Associated Press and other news organizations won’t call a winner. The AP regularly calls races before the official vote count is complete, using models based on partial results, past races and extensive polling.

But in particularly tight contests, the AP and other news organizations may hold off on declaring a winner. That could lead to a national roller coaster ride of shifting results.

In Arizona in 2018, for example, Republican Martha McSally was narrowly winning the initial tally of in-person votes and mail ballots that had arrived days before Election Day. More than a week later, after election officials were able to tally all the mail votes that arrived on Election Day, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won the senatorial race by more than 2 percentage points. Arizona changed its procedures to try to speed up the vote count this year.

In Michigan and Pennsylvania, two states that helped hand Trump his 2016 victory, Democrats have pushed to relax the laws forbidding them from processing ballots before Election Day but faced GOP resistance.

In Michigan, GOP leaders had argued it would be improper to handle ballots before Election Day. But on Wednesday, the state’s GOP-controlled Senate signaled a shift, advancing a bill that would allow the processing of absentee ballots the day before Election Day. Benson said even if the bill passes, she expects a slow count in November.

“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” Benson said.

In Pennsylvania, only 4.6% of the state’s voters voted either early or by mail in 2016. But now both parties are urging voters to send in mail ballots for next week’s primary elections, and officials are overwhelmed by absentee ballot requests.

Philadelphia says it won’t even begin to count mail ballots until after the end of primary day, June 2. Forrest K. Lehman, elections director in Lycoming County in central Pennsylvania, warned: “In terms of November, if they don’t let us start canvassing sooner than the day of the election, there’s no way anyone can responsibly call Pennsylvania on election night.”

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“Texas Voters Face Malicious Prosecutions After COVID-19 Absentee Ballot Ruling”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

On Wednesday, Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling that makes a Lone Star-sized mess of the state’s law on absentee balloting and the question of whether voters who lack immunity to COVID-19 have a valid “excuse” to vote by mail in the upcoming elections. In a nutshell, the court has said that the statute does not allow voters who lack immunity and who fear contracting the virus to vote by mail because the statute only allows voting by mail for those with physical conditions preventing them from voting. But it further says that election officials won’t check the validity of excuses and it will be up to each voter, acting in good faith, to determine whether they have the ability safely vote by mail. This “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a recipe for disaster in a state in which Attorney General Ken Paxton has already threatened with criminal prosecution those who advise voters who lack immunity and fear the disease to vote by mail. And it cries for federal court relief….

In other words, the Texas Supreme Court has told voters that they cannot vote by mail if they lack immunity and fear the disease. But if a voter states that she has a disability for whatever reason the clerks will look the other way and let the voter vote by mail.

Again, this is a recipe for disaster. It will lead Paxton to publicize the argument that lack of immunity and fear of getting the disease is not a valid excuse to vote by mail, and that anyone who advises someone else to claim disability to vote by mail is engaged in a criminal conspiracy to commit voter fraud.  Some voters may get in trouble because they could be accused of voting by mail while understanding that it is illegal. Only the ignorant can vote by mail without fear of prosecution, assuming they can later prove their ignorance. Meanwhile, if a voter has a serious underlying condition or comorbidity that increases the risk of serious complications—or death—from COVID-19, the ruling fails to give guidance on whether she is allowed to cite the condition in lawfully voting by-mail in order to avoid the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. This would seem to leave open the possibility for Paxton to frighten possibly qualifying voters into not voting, or to go after those who do.

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“The Right-Wing Legal Network Is Now Openly Pushing Conspiracy Theories”

I have written this piece at Slate with Dahlia Lithwick. It begins:

The right-wing legal network spawned by the Federalist Society has finally gone full Trumpian. It has morphed from a group of apparently principled conservatives debating high-minded theories of legal interpretation, into a secretly-funded cabal spouting conspiracy theories such as the myth of widespread voter fraud. We’ve certainly seen hints that this was the case and also signals that it was coming. But we have now approached peak-hackery, and that hackery is now being directed at manipulating elections. That part really is new, and it is a dangerous development that threatens the rule of law…

One early sign of the turn away from normal politics and toward dirty tricks occurred when conservative legal activist Ed Whelan advanced an unhinged conspiracy theory that used Zillow pages, Facebook, and yearbook photos to claim that it was not Kavanaugh who committed the attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, but rather his classmate, whom Whelan named outright. Whelan later apologized and after doing a short period of social media penance is now back at work pushing the Federalist Society agenda. The unsupported claim of a different attacker was taken up by commentators and Republican senators who claimed they believed Dr. Ford about being attacked but cast doubt on whether she was correct about the identity of the attacker. The baseless theory injected just enough confusion into the allegations, Kavanaugh was confirmed, and Whelan has paid no price for it.

Now things have taken a turn from court-packing to a side-grift in vote suppression. According to new reporting from The Guardian and Open Secrets, Leo, Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network, and their dark-money backers are promoting the Orwellian-named “Honest Elections Project” to pressure elections administrators to limit access to the ballot and to undermine trust in elections. The messaging echoes Trump’s baseless claims that various states’ efforts to let people vote by mail are fraudulent – and turns these lies into policy. “The project announced it was spending $250,000 in advertisements in April, warning against voting by mail and accusing Democrats of cheating,” the Guardian explained.  “It facilitated letters to election officials in ColoradoFlorida and Michigan, using misleading data to accuse jurisdictions of having bloated voter rolls and threatening legal action. Calling voter suppression a ‘myth’, it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, VirginiaTexasWisconsin and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump.”…

That the conservative network is suddenly engaged in spouting unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud to support suppressive voting laws and cast doubt on the legitimacy of elections in which Democrats can win is an activity fundamentally at odds with the spirit of honest debate that is supposed to animate the Federalist Society. It is also the kind of fundamental dishonesty in the service of political aims that is the polar opposite of the rule of law values Justice Scalia and others had professed as being at the beating heart of the conservative legal movement’s mission. It takes an immense amount of cynicism to move from debating conservative jurisprudential theories to taking secret money to buy and sell judicial nominations. But the cynicism required to use that once-vaunted perch from which to shut down free elections is still breathtaking, even if it should no longer surprise us at all.


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“Pendleton County mail carrier charged with attempted election fraud”

DOJ release:

Thomas Cooper, a mail carrier in Pendleton County, was charged today in a criminal complaint with attempted election fraud, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell announced. 

Cooper, age 47, of Dry Fork, West Virginia, is charged with “Attempt to Defraud the Residents of West Virginia of a Fair Election.” According to the affidavit filed with the complaint, Cooper held a U.S. Postal Service contract to deliver mail in Pendleton County. In April 2020, the Clerk of Pendleton County received “2020 Primary Election COVID-19 Mail-In Absentee Request” forms from eight voters on which the voter’s party-ballot request appeared to have been altered.

The clerk reported the finding to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office, which began an investigation. The investigation found five ballot requests that had been altered from “Democrat” to “Republican.” On three other requests, the party wasn’t changed, but the request had been altered. 

Cooper was responsible for the mail delivery of the three towns from which the tampered requests were mailed: Onego, Riverton, and Franklin, West Virginia. According to the affidavit, Cooper admitted to altering some of the requests, saying it was a joke. 

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Decision Desk HQ, Which Does Election Calling for Vox and Others, Endorses Media Recommendations from Our “Fair Elections During a Crisis” Report

Decision Desk:

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we live our daily lives in so many ways over the last two months. As we’ve seen across the country these changes, great and small, have reached the world of politics and elections.

Recently an ad-hoc committee of scholars and researchers led by professor Rick Hasen of the University of California at Irvine, released a report  addressing the challenges posed by holding an election in the midst of a public health crisis and offered recommendations regarding the execution of the upcoming general election. Many of these recommendations are aimed at government officials overseeing elections, but some are addressed to the media regarding their coverage of the process.

As a leading provider of election night results to national and local media outlets, Decision Desk HQ has been monitoring the rapidly changing conditions under which election have been, and are likely to be, held. I wanted to take this opportunity to address two of the committee’s recommendations as they apply to the work we do at DDHQ.

Recommendation #5 involves educating the public on the timing and process of elections as well as the tabulation of returns. This is something we take seriously and will be doing our best to provide information and context from our perspective throughout the rest of the year. As an organization that services as a bridge between the government officials charged with conducting our elections and the media responsible for informing the public about the conduct and results of elections, we feel we bring a unique and important perspective to this conversation.

We’ll be doing more educational pieces over the course of the next few months starting here.

Recommendation #6 is an excellent place to begin our contribution to the discussion: :

It is especially important for the media to convey to the public the idea that, given an expected increase in absentee ballot voting in the November 2020 elections, delays in election reporting are to be expected, not evidence of fraud, and that the 2020 presidential election may be “too early to call” until days after election day.

We wholeheartedly agree about the need for expectation-setting and election education in order to dispel rumors and instill confidence in the process….

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